Monthly Archives: October 2019

Cook Islands: manager of world’s biggest marine park says she lost job for backing sea mining moratorium

Jacqueline Evans says she was dismissed from managing the Marae Moana.

Environmentalist Jacqueline Evans says she was dismissed from the Marae Moana for urging caution on deep-sea mining

Ben Doherty | The Guardian | 19 October 2019

The public champion of the world’s largest marine reserve – the Cook Islands’ Marae Moana – has said she lost her job managing it because she supported a moratorium on seabed mining in the Pacific.

Six months ago, Jacqueline Evans won the Goldman Environmental prize – the world’s foremost environmental award – for her work establishing Marae Moana (meaning “sacred ocean”), which covers the Cook Islands’ entire exclusive economic zone of more than 1.9m sq km.

Evans alleges she lost her job as director of Marae Moana because she argued in favour of a 10-year-moratorium on seabed mining to allow for research on its environmental impact.

The Cook Islands government is proceeding with mining exploration, saying it wants to be at “the frontier of the new gold rush” and could be ready to start seabed mining within five years. It says mining the seafloor for metallic nodules could provide financial security for the islands and help them mitigate climate change.

“The catalyst was my policy advice to my colleagues within government that we support Vanuatu, Fiji and PNG on their support for a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining … so that baseline scientific data can be collected,” Evans told Guardian Australia.

She said she was “gravely concerned that government officials don’t want to take the time” to collect data from the reserve, including on the little-understood species that live in the deepest parts of the ocean.

“Our ocean is important to us, for our survival. If we destroy the ocean, we destroy our food supply, our livelihoods and our economy. Marae Moana represents how Pacific Islanders feel about their Pacific Ocean. It’s important that this viewpoint is upheld.”

The proponents of seabed mining argue it can provide minerals critical to renewable energy industries with little waste. But environmentalists arguing for caution say precious little is known about the deep ocean, and even less about the potential environmental impacts of mining it.

Evans was one of six winners of the Goldman prize in 2019 for her “five-year grassroots campaign” to better protect the Cooks’ marine biodiversity.

In addition to mandating sustainable use of its waters, Marae Moana established a 50-nautical mile fishing exclusion zone around each of the Cooks’ 15 islands, leaving those waters exclusively for the use of island communities.

The Cook Islands’ prime minister, Henry Puna, has been crucial in directing government support for the reserve, and the former rugby league player Kevin Iro, now ambassador for Marae Manoa, first proposed the idea and led the campaign for the marine park.

But Evans was responsible for developing government policy and the Marae Moana Act, which parliament passed in 2017. Until last month, she was the sole employee of the Marae Moana Coordination Office.

In a statement reported by the Cook Islands News, the prime minister’s chief of staff, Ben Ponia, thanked Evans for bringing “passion, expertise, and energy into this role”.

Several sources have told the Guardian that Evans lost her job, which was within the office of the prime minister, because of her support for the moratorium. This has been reported in the Cooks, and has not been denied by the government.

The prime minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Evans’s dismissal.

Evans said a moratorium should be acceptable to both supporters and opponents of mining.

“Advocates for manganese nodule mining … say that the only life at 4.5km to 6km deep, where the manganese nodules lie on the seabed, are small ‘head lice’,” she said. “We know so little about the ecosystem at that depth. We need to collect more information before such statements can be made.”

The Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority said ocean survey work over four decades had identified as much as 12bn square tonnes of mineral-rich manganese nodules spread over the Cook Islands’ continental shelf.

“This seabed mineral resource offers a significant opportunity for the long-term sustainable economic and social development of the Cook Islands,” it said.

In a statement last week, the minerals authority said: “Despite calls for a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining in the Pacific to allow time to conduct more environmental research, the Cooks are set to be the frontier of the new gold rush”.

Deputy prime minister Mark Brown said seabed mining could prove vital to the country’s financial security and contribute revenue towards climate change resilience.

“We can’t just sit back and expect good things to happen for the country, and I see us as taking the lead,” Brown said.

Deep-sea – or seabed – mining has proved contentious wherever it has been proposed.

Proponents argue it could yield ore far superior to land mining in silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and zinc, with little, if any, waste product. The industry is potentially worth billions of dollars and could assist the transition to a renewable energy economy, supplying raw materials for key technologies such as batteries, computers and phones.

Environmental and legal groups have urged extreme caution, arguing there are potentially massive ramifications for the environment and for nearby communities.

Scientists argue deep sea biodiversity and ecosystems remain poorly understood, making it impossible to properly assess the potential impacts of mining – including disturbance of seafloor ecosystems, sediment displacement and noise, vibration and light pollution.

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Porgera Mine – A World Class Disaster

The Porgera gold mine has made people slaves on their own land, forced to scrape in the polluted mine tailings to try and earn the money to buy food and basic essentials. The owners of Barrick Gold and Zijin Mining should hang their heads in shame…

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Dam collapses at Siberian gold mine, killing at least 15 people

The miners’ camp near Krasnoyarsk after the dam collapsed. Photograph: Russian Emergencies Ministry/Emergencies Ministry/TASS

Investigation launched into safety regime at alluvial mine in remote Krasnoyarsk region

Reuters | The Observer | 19 October 2019

At least 15 gold miners were killed when a dam collapsed, flooding a mining encampment in a remote part of Siberia, officials have said.

Heavy rains weakened the dam and water broke through, sweeping away several cabins where the miners lived, about 100 miles south of the city of Krasnoyarsk.

President Vladimir Putin ordered all necessary measures to be taken to help those affected, identify the cause of the disaster and prevent any impact on a nearby residential area, Interfax quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Russia is one of the world’s top gold producers, most of it coming from large professional industrial mines. However, alluvial mining, where the gold is in a stream bed rather than an underground seam, still contributes some of the country’s output.

Alluvial (or artisanal) gold mining in Russia is usually small-scale, but is still conducted by officially registered firms, which are supposed to abide by health and safety rules.

Krasnoyarsk officials said water released by the dam partially flooded two dormitories of the rotational camp in which 74 people lived, adding that 13 people were still missing.

A Russian investigative committee said it had launched a criminal investigation into violation of safety rules at the gold mining spot, while local authorities said the collapsed dam was not registered by official bodies.

Interfax said the miners were part of the Siberian privately held company Sibzoloto, which unites several artisanal mining teams.

Sibzoloto was not immediately available for comment. The company produced about three tonnes of gold in 2018, Sergei Kashuba, the head of Russia’s Gold Industrialists’ Union, a non-government producers’ lobby group, said. Sibzoloto is not a member of the union, he added.

Russia produced 314 tonnes of gold in 2018.

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PM Gives Assurance Of Further Ramu Mine Probe

Post Courier | October 18, 2019

Prime Minister James Marape says investigations into Ramu Nickel Mine slurry spill at Basamuk Bay in Madang will continue.

He said this after a lengthy and heated debate in Parliament yesterday after a report on the August 24, 2019, incident was presented by Environment and Conservation and Climate Change Minister Geoffrey Kama.

“I note most Members of Parliament have a conversation to make in regards to this ministerial statement presented,” Mr Marape said.

“As indicated by the minister, there’ll be further assessment and investigation.

“Every stakeholder, including the Governor for Madang (Peter Yama), has every right to have an interest in this matter.

“When matters relate to the security of our people, the interest of our people, and matters relating to the environment, it is just and responsible that we all have a concern.

“We note the concern that was raised by every Member of Parliament, especially the Governor for Madang and Member for Rai Coast (Peter Sapia) in the immediate precinct and affected areas.

“We are grateful for the comments by every leader this afternoon, in response to the statement minister has made.

”
Mr Marape said Northern Governor Gary Juffa had made a strong statement, as well as Kompiam-Ambum MP and former Environment and Conservation Minister, Sir John Pundari.

“Every other statement is also correct, finding the right balance,” he said.

“Our harvest of resources comes from the price on our environment.

“We’ve allowed those investors to come in, but the investors who come in must operate within responsibility and due care to our environment, to our country, and to our people.

“I think from the outset, without the specifics on the impact on the environment, the fact that there was a practical defect in the structure of the mine itself is an incident that warrants deeper study into what was taking place, in as far as the mine safety and operation is concerned.

“Cabinet did indicate this to the minister, and I note that minister’s statement embraces further investigation, further assessment.

“Let me assure people of Madang, people of Rai Coast, people of Usino-Bundi and people of this country, that this report and the investigation thus far is not conclusive and that is not the end of the story.

“The fact that there was a slip, which took place in the mine infrastructure, irrespective of the extent of the damage, warrants deeper scrutiny, deeper investigation, deeper assessment.”

Mr Marape assured the people of Madang, Usino-Bundi, Rai Coast, as well as the country, that all stakeholders including Madang government, Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA), Mining Department and other Government agencies would look deeper into what had happened.

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Madang people suffering from Ramu mine spill

A spill into the bay earlier this year turned the sea red. Photo: Facebook/ Elisha Wesley Mizeu

Luwi James | Post Courier | 18 October 2019

It is confirmed that sea waters in Madang is contaminated and poisoned by highly toxic slurry spill from the Basamuk refinery in Raicoast few months ago.

The independent Swiss specialist Dr Mojon who was engaged by the Madang provincial administration has confirmed this in his findings.

This will have a negative impact on the lives of people.
Madang provincial government has already warned the people not use or consume fish from the sea and this is likely to continue on for an indefinite period of time depending on the assessment and solution of this problem.

People living by the sea and on the islands like Karkar, Krangket, Manam,Bagbag, Long Island and other smaller islands have already started feeling the effect.
 The sea is their life and poisoning it is simply starving them to death.

The microsocio-economic cycle and protein supplement of these people has been completely snapped.

This issue also affects tuna production in Madang. Currently, the company is canning fish which are in stock and may stop canning, awaiting the purification of the sea from the poison. People are also afraid to buy canned fish sold in stores and supermarkets.

The deep sea tailing project (DSTP) has been challenged in court by landowners of Basamuk and MCC. The court issued the direction to have constructive measure and a proper regulation system in place to closely monitor the facility but this has never been done which has resulted in the spill and poisoning of sea water.

The people of Raicoast and those on the islands are experiencing all kinds of illnesses.
 Vegetation near the shores are turning yellow and drying up. Dead fish are filling the sea shores. People have been attributing these matters to black magic and sorcery but now they have come to realise that toxic waste from the mine has been the cause of these problems.

The department of environment, conservation and climate change and developer MCC are rebutting the report of the scientist is ridiculous. They are showing their lack of concern for the damage done and how to solve this issue amicably.

The Madang provincial administration must be applauded for undertaking this issue seriously and that the mine has to stop until all investigations are done and proper measures are in place to guarantee the safety of our people.

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Yama Claims Two Dead After Eating Contaminated Fish

Post Courier | October 18, 2019

MADANG Governor Peter Yama claims two men have died after eating contaminated fish caught in the polluted Basamuk area.

He told Parliament yesterday that post-mortems would be done soon to confirm his fears.

Mr Yama said this when disputing a statement by Minister of Environment and Conservation, Geoffery Kama, which dismissed the seriousness of the situation at Basamuk.

Mr Kama had told parliament that the discoloration of sea water was due to 200, 000 liters of raw slurry that had overflowed from one of the company’s surge tanks within the Basamuk plant site and did not pose any danger to the environment or people. Tests have also been done to prove this, he said.

“Due to the tests done, I would like to inform this house that marine waters around Basamuk Bay and nearby areas are safe to swim, and for recreational purposes only.”

An irate Mr Yama demanded for the immediate closure of the Ramu nickle mine until proper scientific and environmental tests were done. “Next week six scientists will be in Madang not in the name of Peter Yama but for the interest of the people of Madang, East Sepik, Morobe and West Sepik and the country,” he said.

“Why are the animals dying and ending up on the shore of the bay, why are we telling lies, close the mine, prosecute and send them packing or else you will see a protest march that will close down Madang Province.

“This plant at Basamuk is the worse mine this government has allowed to sit in the province, the way it is set up is not like a mine,” he added.
Mr Yama claimed the company had not paid any taxes to the Government or paid royalties to landowners.

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CEPA Says Madang Waters Are ‘Safe’ – but warns against eating fish!

Elias Nanau | Post Courier | October 18, 2019

The Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) has assured that the waters around the Basamuk area in Madang are safe and free of toxic contamination.

CEPA officials gave the assurance yesterday following tests and conclusion of water samples tested at the Australian Laboratory Services in Brisbane.

Michael Wau, director for Environment Regulatory operations, took the media through the findings yesterday. He said water samples were obtained from the villages of Naglau, Duman, Domestic Wharf and Drains 1 and 4 outlets.

Their average concentrations were below baseline concentrations and met environment permit conditions, Mr Wau said. He said out of the 200,000-litre slurry spill, 100,000 was contained within the refinery while 80,000 spilled into the Basamuk Bay. The slurry spill was said to have been caused by pump failure.

“Results of samples did not indicate major interference with sea water composition apart from turbidity caused by outfall material after heavy rains,” he said.

Environment and Conservation Minister Geoffrey Kama who joined the presentation endorsed the statements by his officers. “I think everything is back to normal,” he said.

“It’s not about the color, we want to detect the metals,” has said whilst cautioning the local people not to consume any fish caught in the area until further test were done to make the findings conclusive.

“We are not here to support the company, we are not here to tell lies,” Mr Kama said.
 He said CEPA would engage two independent scientists to sample toxic contamination from fish and this exercise would be completed within four weeks.

While the Madang Provincial Government-sponsored Swiss scientist Dr Alex Mojon and his report appear to contradict CEPA’s report, they told the media they were not able to critique or criticize the report without the benefit of reading it.

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